Open Book Quizzing with Accelerated Reader

Should students be allowed to look at their books when taking Accelerated Reader quizzes?

When a student relies on recall while quizzing, quiz scores indicate the student's level of comprehension of the book. Low quiz scores (below 80% on a single quiz or below 85% on average) indicate that a student is struggling at the assigned book level. When a student struggles, the teacher can adjust the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) range and guide the student to more appropriate books.

When a student relies on finding information in the book while quizzing, quiz scores no longer accurately indicate the student's level of comprehension, and the teacher can no longer accurately assess whether the books a student has read are at the appropriate level. As a result, a student may select books that are too difficult, or the teacher may never realize that the student needs extra instruction to improve reading comprehension. Therefore, we recommend that students do not have access to books while taking Accelerated Reader quizzes.

There are a few exceptions in which open-book quizzing may be appropriate:

  • During instruction of how to take Accelerated Reader quizzes, but for no more than two weeks
  • During instruction of how to read nonfiction and take corresponding Accelerated Reader quizzes, but for no more than two weeks
  • For emergent readers who read picture books
  • As an intervention method for a special education student

Open-book quizzing should not be confused with the text-lookback strategy that is a well-supported practice used during reading to improve reading comprehension (Garner, 1987; Duffy, 2003).

Several studies have examined the comparative merits of open-book and closed-book testing (Boniface, 1985; Francis, 1982). These studies have shown that students tend to prepare less thoroughly for open-book tests, which could mean they are not even reading the book. Studies to date have demonstrated no clear benefit in levels of student achievement arising from open-book tests (Brooks, 1988).

Additionally, researchers have concluded that different test types such as take-home, open-book, collaborative, and closed-book tests each have their place (Hoyt, Vasilescu, Feeser & Horton, 2008; Monahan, 1997). These studies have found that tests based on factual details that would be revealed in the book are best served by closed-book tests.

Based on the research literature and more than 20 years of experience with Accelerated Reader in schools, our recommendation is that students complete Accelerated Reader quizzes without referring to the book unless any of the above exceptions apply. Closed-book quizzing is the best way to make sure the quiz results are interpretable as an indication of comprehension and not a student’s ability to locate information in a book.


Boniface, D. (1985). Candidates' use of notes and textbooks during an open-book examination. Educational Research, 27, 201–209.

Crooks, T. J. (1988). The impact of classroom evaluation practices on students. Review of Educational Research, 58(4), 438–481.

Duffy, G. (Ed.). (2003). Improving comprehension: 10 research-based principles. Washington, DC: National Education Association.

Francis, J. (1982). A case for open-book examinations. Educational Review, 34, 13–26.

Garner, R. (1987). Metacognition and reading comprehension. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Hoyt, B.H., Vasilescu, I.P., Fesser, K, & Horton, J. (2008). Improved long-term retention for identical and similar material found on chapter quizzes. National Social Science Journal, 31 (1), 57-63.

Monahan, K.P. (1997). Open book examinations: A report and a response to some recurrent concerns. CDT Link, 1(2), 7, 14-15.